Many today think they will enter heaven even if they do not turn to God. The Gospel reading shows this is not true. Jesus rebuked the cities where most of his works were done because they did not repent. He speaks of a day of judgment where we account for how we live our lives. Matthew tells us Jesus did most of his deeds of power in these cities and yet, they would not repent. But what is repentance? On the surface, these cities worshiped God. They were faithful Jews who obeyed the Law. It is precisely because of this, they would not believe what Jesus said. Repentance is not just a decision to obey rules or rituals. It is turning to the Person of Jesus, trusting God himself.
The First Reading tells us about the alliance of Israel and Aram as they plan to attack Judah. The heart of Ahaz [the king] and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind. Ahaz had reason to be concerned because the armies of these two kingdoms are stronger than Judah’s. But God sent Isaiah with a message to Ahaz:
- Be quiet. God tells Ahaz to be at rest, to calm down.
- Do not fear. God tells Ahaz not to be afraid.
- Do not let your heart be faint. God tells Ahaz not to have his heart grow faint.
These three statements mean the same thing. God first told Ahaz: take heed, as if he calls Ahaz to look, observe. And God said, no matter how powerful they are, will not harm Judah. They will not succeed because God says so. God concludes: if you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all. How can one stand firm in faith? We trust God, believe his word, even when things do not seem so. Things were created when God spoke. When God says something we trust him. When we are faced with an impossibility, we turn to God and trust him. God said: if you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.
St Camillus de Lellis was a rough person before his conversion. He had a temper. His father was an officer in the army and was often absent from home. His mother could not control him. After his mother died when he was a young and at 16 years old, he joined his father in the Venetian army. When his regiment was disbanded after several years, he gambled all his possessions and worked at a Capuchin friary. At this time, he still had his temper and was still a compulsive gambler. A friar patiently mentored Camillus until he had a conversion. As his leg injury which he sustained while in the army, continued to bother him so he was not allowed to become a friar.
He moved to Rome and served in a hospital while living an ascetic life. His spiritual director and confessor was Philip Neri, who later became a saint. Camillus felt called to establish a community and when Philip Neri approved, Camillus sought holy orders and was ordained a priest. He founded the Order of Clerks Regular, Ministers of the Infirm, or the Cammilians. The large red cross in their cassock is probably the inspiration of the symbol of the Red Cross. Camillius believed the sick should be treated up until the end of life. He is the patron of the sick, of hospitals, nurses and physicians.
Camillus shows there is always hope for someone who is open to the movements of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Camillus had a conversion after encountering Jesus. No matter how bad a person is, there is always hope that person will turn back to Jesus. It is never too late to turn back to him. Do you believe Jesus is calling you today, despite the sins you had, the guilt, the weaknesses you had? As Isaiah said to Ahaz, believe his truth, turn to Jesus, trust God and you will stand before him, forgiven, and received as a child of God.
Lord, I know you call me to turn to you. Give me courage Lord, to repent, and trust your Word. Teach me to stand on your Word so I can truly stand in you. St Camillius, pray for me. I am sick because sin has weakened me. Lead me to Jesus. Pray for my healing, that I be healed of that sin that prevents me from following Jesus.